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Travel: Relax at another 19th hole; The Belfry will always be synonymous with golf. But if you can get past the putting and the five irons, their spa is top-hole, too -as long as you can avoid the 'Considerably Richer Than Yaow' crowd. Caroline Foulkes reports.

Byline: Caroline Foulkes

Going to a spa is a bit like joining the Foreign Legion.

You sign up to forget. Ok, so maybe there aren't saunas, steam rooms and plunge pools in the Foreign Legion, but you get the picture.

You go to forget about work, about stress, about the 'real' world of bill-paying, commuting, and deadlines.

You pay to forget those things. Or at least to postpone them, just for a little while, from your life.

It's about getting away from it all, about relaxation.

The Obsession spa at The Belfry is the perfect place to forget, to relax. It has more pampering facilities than you can feasibly shake a stick at; it's clean, cosy and luxurious and the staff are friendly and polite -in fact, nothing is too much trouble for them.

In short, it's ideal for escaping from life for a bit.

But someone always has to go and spoil things.

'Ee-ya, the last toime I was in a sooornnah was when we wuz in that knocking shop in Leeds.'

I shuddered. The utterly charming member of staff behind the spa counter visibly blanched. But the utterly charmless man from whose mouth those words issued, in perfect, plain-for-all-to-hear Brummie tones, never even thought twice about what he was saying.

It was like water off a duck's back -or rather, a Brummie's belly -and there were plenty of those on show. All nicely rounded and tanned.

The 'Considerably Richer Than Yaow' crowd had landed.

Having already been the subject of a Metro (my car) vs Mercedes (top of the range) stand-off in the car park, I made a mental note to avoid them.

It wasn't easy.

The Belfry's spa experience is known as an 'AquaSpa Journey'. Lasting a stonking two hours, it is without doubt the most relaxing journey I've ever been on.

The idea behind it is that you pass through each of the spa's biothermal rooms, gradually raising your body temperature, and then gently lowering it again as many times as you can across the two hours. And with 11 different rooms to choose from, there are many variations on how you can do it Starting off on the heated benches, I soaked my feet in the foot bath before passing into the caldarium (a sort of warmair bath, infused with a lovely citrus aroma), then the aroma cave, sauna, crystal steam room, sanarium, hydrotherapy pool and finally the igloo. Well, not literally an igloo, but more a sort of large freezer where you rub ice chips all over yourself to cool down -most invigorating, but not for the faint-hearted. Unfortunately, due to the presence of The Considerably Richer Than Yaows, there were certain rooms I felt it best to avoid. Sadly, one of them was the sanarium.

A gentler form of sauna, this was by far and away my favourite. I climbed onto the bench, lay down on my towel and listened to the gentle piped birdsong and started to drift off . . . 'Olroight?' AAAGGH! In trouped six of them. They started talking about business deals, birds and which BMW they were going to get next.

Like any good journalist, I made my excuses and left.

Luckily, they avoided the caldarium, the aroma cave and the crystal steam room, or 'them smelly ones' as they called them, so I did get some peace and quiet.

Don't get me wrong, I don't object to people talking in a spa. It's brash, bullish bragging I object to.

Nevertheless, after two hours of studious Brummie businessman avoidment, I was so relaxed as to be almost horizontal. It was all I could do to get changed and go downstairs for dinner.

How glad I was I did. We booked into The French Restaurant. There is only one way to describe the food in this place. Out of this world. And just like in every other part of the hotel, the service was superb -the waiting staff were charmers, as were the two guys in the bar, both of whom rattled away with us like we'd been popping in for a drink there for years. One, who hailed originally from Alicante, even indulged me as I tried to speak to him in my now execrable Spanish.

But again, some of the clientele spoiled it for us with loud, brash, bragging. I don't mind people talking in a dining room. Hell, I expect it. But to me, loud, showy people overindulging themselves and mouthing off about money and business deals is about as bad as having to sit in a restaurant full of chainsmokers.

I think what made it worse was the (assumed) knowledge that most of these people could, and probably do, eat here regularly. They can afford to, it's nothing, normal to them. But for those who come here for a special occasion, a treat, it can be terribly off-putting.

Fortunately, there is an escape -the room. We stopped in one of the Torrance House suites -all the accommodation blocks herehave a golfing related name -which, given that each one has a huge balcony overlooking the golf course (and, it seems, half of North Warwickshire) is probably the best place to be. With its huge bedroom and separate living room, it was comfy and cosy. Of course, the massive bowl of fruit and box of chocolates provided to welcome us helped, and made a nice change from the stingy-looking wafer thin mints provided by some so-called 'top' hotels.

Our only cause for concern was the sickly-looking duck nestled up grumpily in the flower box on the balcony. A little worried for its welfare, we reported it to reception. Once again, the staff were wonderful, showing genuine concern and promising to report it to the grounds staff asap.

Wildlife worries dealt with, we turned in. And I, for one, slept like a log thanks to the spa treatment and an excellent 'feed and watering'.

Truly, I can't recommend The Belfry enough -and I can't stand golf. If you're looking for a short, one or two-night spa break not too far from home, then it's just perfect.

Just watch out for the Considerably Richer Than Yaows.

Fact fileCall Central Reservations 0870 606 3606, or the De Vere Belfry direct on 01675 470301for more information and latest news about special offers.

Further details can also be obtained from www.devereonline.co.uk.

Indulge dad with the ultimate golfing package -overnight at The De Vere Belfry on June 19 or 20 for pounds 62.50 per person per night based on two people sharing on a dinner bed & breakfast basis. Included in this price is nine holes of golf on the world famous Brabazon Course, host venue to four Ryder Cup Matches, dinner in The Atrium Restaurant and a full English breakfast.

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There are 11 rooms to choose from, offering plenty of opportunity to get away from it all; It's easy to relax -if you avoid the Brummie boasters
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 12, 2004
Words:1157
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